Craig Jones blames influencer money for luring real athletic talent like Dillon Danis away from BJJ

Craig Jones (left) claims influencer money to have caused Dillon Danis (right) to stop competing. [Image courtesy: Craig Jones and Dillon Danis
Craig Jones (left) claims influencer money to have caused Dillon Danis (right) to stop competing [Image Courtesy: @craigjonesbjj and @dillondanis on Instagram]

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu icon Craig Jones recently sounded off on the current trend of social media influencers becoming professional athletes and vice versa. It's been observed today how stars like Jake Paul, Elle Brooke, and Salt Papi generate more fanbase and money than most lifelong pro athletes.

This growing interest in the star quality, alongside the appeal of celebrity personalities and the world of pro sports mixing, has generated talk and debate amongst fans, analysts, and athletes alike.

Jones cited Dillon Danis, a former IBJJF Brownbelt world champion and Bellator MMA fighter, who has found immense fame and success on social media - arguably more than the competitive mats. To Jones, this shift is understandably motivated by one essential factor, money.

Speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour, the Aussie grappling legend explained why we have been seeing athletes like Danis on TikTok more than the competitive mats:

"I think, potentially, like we lose athletes like that because there's probably more money being an influencer than there is in the tournaments, you know? So it's like, for him [Danis], having a good time, being an influencer, probably paid SIGNIFICANTLY more than his grappling and who knows, if a tournament [Craig Jones Invitational] existed earlier in his career, he might not have felt the need to not compete."

Watch his full statement on Dillon Danis here:

Craig Jones launches submission grappling tournament on ADCC weekend after retiring

Perhaps as a response to his sport losing its great athletes to an influencer lifestyle, Craig Jones took matters into his own hands and put together his own tournament. His newly-minted promotion called the Craig Jones Invitational, is dubbed 'the highest-paying grappling event in history'.

This came on the heels of Jones retiring from submission grappling and announcing his refusal to compete at the 2024 ADCC, a legendary tournament he made a name out of. The often-goofy Australian grappler cited poor athlete pay as his reason for not competing.

Hence, the creation of a new grappling event. At the moment, Jones' grappling invitational will feature two weight brackets, below 80kg and over 80kg - with the winner of each bracket receiving $1,000,000. That's nearly 10 times the reported prize of an ADCC gold medalist.

To hammer his point home, Jones chose to hold the event on the same weekend as ADCC.

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